Matt Clayton doesn't have any national championships notched on his running shoes. There are no Olympic medals gathering dust on his shelf.
But Sunday at the $20,000 Reebok Arturo Barrios Invitational, Clayton, a 24-year-old San Diego State student, raced against those who have such things--and won nonetheless.
Clayton, of Imperial Beach, waited until the final 200 yards of the 10-kilometer race to pull away from a talented field to win in 28 minutes 30 seconds, an impressive 39-second improvement over his previous 10K best of 29:09, run only two weeks ago.
Among those Clayton beat were Suleiman Nyambui, who won 15 National Collegiate Athletic Assn. championships in cross-country, indoor and outdoor track competing for UTEP in the early 1980s.
Nyambui, 37, was second in 28:39, followed by Mexican standouts Salvador Garcia (28:44), Abundio Mondragon (28:52) and Jorge Marquez (29:12).
"Oh, this is a big-time thrill for me," said Clayton, a cross-country coach at Bonita Vista High School. "My main goal was to run under 29 minutes and break into the top five. I didn't think I'd win the thing. It's exciting. Like (being on) cloud 99, I guess."
In the women's division, Rosa Mota, the 1988 Olympic marathon champion from Portugal, had little trouble outrunning a field that included four-time U.S. Olympian Francie Larrieu-Smith, 1987 NCAA 10,000-meter champ Sylvia Mosqueda, and Ingrid Kristiansen of Norway, the women's world-record holder at several distances, including 10K.
Mota, who waved to the largely Latino crowds as they shouted "Vaya Rosa!" and "Vaya Rosita!," spent the first two miles in a shoulder-to-shoulder duel with Mosqueda before picking up the pace. Mosqueda, whose reputation as a runner who goes out hard and finishes weak proved true again, faded to third in 33:20 and was passed by Larrieu-Smith (second at 33:05) with two miles remaining.
Mota, who is just 4-feet-9, 90 pounds and wears a men's size 3 1/2 shoe, said: "I don't like to wait for the finish (to make a move) because I am too slow. I try to go faster and faster each mile instead."
Kristiansen, still recovering from her victory in the New York City Marathon three weeks ago, participated in the event's 5K walk with her 6-year-old son, Gaute, before running in the elite 10K. Kristiansen had planned on running in the open 10K, but changed her mind Saturday.
"I planned to run the fun run, but I am a competitor; I wanted to run," she said. "I didn't try to win at all; I just love to race. I haven't trained since New York, so I'm not in shape."
Kristiansen, whose 10K world record on the track is 30:13, ran 34:24, good enough for sixth and $400.
Clayton and Mota each earned $4,000 for their victories.
Although he is hardly close to his form that brought him several world records some 10 years ago, 37-year-old Henry Rono, now on the comeback trail in Eugene, Ore., ran a respectable 32:34 for 19th. . . . Twelve men broke 30 minutes in the race, and seven women ran sub-35s. . . . Orange County's top finisher was former Orange Coast College standout Alfredo Vigueras, now living and training in Alamosa, Colo. . . . Proceeds from the race will benefit a "Stay in School" program for Orange County students. The race's namesake, Arturo Barrios, said $15,000 was raised for the program Sunday. Next year the goal is $20,000. "This sport has given me a lot of things," said Barrios, the world-record holder at 10,000 meters. "This is one way of giving something back, to help people." . . . Despite the early-morning drizzle, about 2,000 runners turned out for the races, and an estimated 1,000 came just to watch.